19.03.2015 Der Löwenmensch, the Lion Man : it is “not necessary to have a brain with a complex pre-frontal cortex to form the mental image of a human or a lion—but it is to make the figure of a lion-man”

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40,000 years old: Lion Man sculpture. Photo: Thomas Stephan, © Ulmer Museum

« New pieces of Ulm’s Lion Man sculpture have been discovered and it has been found to be much older than originally thought, at around 37,000 years. This makes it the world’s earliest figurative sculpture…

The story of the discovery of the Lion Man goes back to August 1939, when fragments of mammoth ivory were excavated at the back of the Stadel Cave in the Swabian Alps, south-west Germany. This was a few days before the outbreak of the Second World War. When it was eventually reassembled in 1970, it was regarded as a standing bear or big cat, but with human characteristics.

The ivory from which the figure had been carved had broken into myriad fragments. When first reconstructed, around 200 pieces were incorporated into the 29cm-tall sculpture, with about 30% of its volume missing.

Further fragments were later found among the previously excavated material and these were added to the figure in 1989. At this point, the sculpture was recognised as representing a lion…

An imaginative sculptor : Even more exciting than the discovery of new pieces, the sculpture’s age has been refined using radio-carbon dating of other bones found in the strata. This reveals a date of about 37,000 years ago, while until recently it was thought to be 32,000 years old…

This revised dating pushes the Lion Man right back to the oldest sculptures, which have been found in two other caves in the Swabian Alps. These rare finds are dated at 35,000 to 40,000 years, but the Lion Man is by far the largest and most complex piece.

What was striking about the sculptor of the Lion Man sculptor is that he or she had a mind capable of imagination rather than simply representing real forms. As Cook says, it is “not necessary to have a brain with a complex pre-frontal cortex to form the mental image of a human or a lion—but it is to make the figure of a lion-man”. The Ulm sculpture therefore sheds further light on the evolution of homo sapiens.

Conservators experimented by making a replica of Lion Man, calculating that it would take a highly skilled carver at least 400 hours using flint tools (two months’ work in daylight). This means that the carver would have had to be looked after by hunter-gatherers, which presupposes a degree of social organisation. There is an ongoing debate on what the Lion Man represents, and whether it is linked to shamanism and the spirit world. »

ARTICLE COMPLET / Ice Age Lion Man is world’s earliest figurative sculpture
By Martin Bailey. ArtNewsPaper

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Video du musée d’ULM : http://www.ulm.de

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